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Champagne, Mr. Monopoly and Omerta: Meet Peter Miller, the flashy Instagram user accused of insider trading

Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in ‘The Godfather, ‘ the movie based on the novel by Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Initial theatrical release on March 15, 1972.

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On Instagram, Peter Miller’s life – like everybody else’s – seemed perfect.

Only Miller’s life comes across as just a little bit more perfect than the average Insta star: There’s the 41-year-old waist deep in a pool, holding a tray of large Champagne flutes while a friend hoists a comically oversized bottle.

In Aspen, a spring snow weighs on the green boughs of high mountain trees and a hotel breakfast features hot coffee, cool crepes and two laptops, screens bursting with market data.

A beautiful woman in a bathrobe clutches a glass of wine and takes in the Parisian skyline in a photo taken at the luxury Hotel Marignan Champs Elysees.  

But one picture in particular captures the tension that may have been at the core of Miller’s life: It’s a photograph of two men, apparently gallery employees, hanging a painting on the wall of a Miami apartment.

The painting’s colors are as cartoonishly bright as is the message of the artist. It’s a work by an anonymous graffiti specialist known as “Alec Monopoly,” and it depicts the character Rich Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly mascot, wielding a doctor’s stethoscope as he checks the heart of cartoon character Richie Rich. Pumping from the spoiled rich boy’s chest is a stream of dollar signs.

It’s not clear whether Miller, who was recently indicted on federal charges, bought the painting, or how he interpreted its meaning. The gallery that displays Alec Monopoly’s work calls it a “critique of capitalist greed.”

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But Miller himself – at least until his indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Houston last week – was certainly a capitalist. And the U.S. government says it was his greed that led him to commit crimes.

At the center of the alleged scheme is Miller’s company, which he called Omerta Capital, LLC.

“Omerta,” of course, is the mafia code of silence popularized in mafia fiction, such as works by Mario Puzo, who wrote “The Godfather” and other mob novels. According to the code, so-called made men must remain silent in the face of questioning by law enforcement or government authorities – to give those not yet caught a better chance of escaping.

It is not clear why Miller gave his natural gas trading company the same name as a code of criminal loyalty, or whether Miller is a “Godfather” fan.

But it’s the kind of thing that is likely to attract attention of law enforcement officials.

Omerta, the company, was based in Puerto Rico, where many of Miller’s Instagram photos of swimming pools, yachts and palm trees were taken.

According to the government, Miller was engaged in a long-running scheme to misappropriate material non-public information to manipulate natural gas futures markets – and he had the cooperation of a secret source who leaked him valuable private information.  

The government says Miller conspired with four other men and “caused prices to be reported, recorded, and registered on designated commodities markets that were not true, bona fide prices.” The other four men have already pleaded guilty to various charges.

The scheme, the government says, involved a natural gas trading company in Houston, which is only identified in court papers as “Company B.” An insider at that company, described as “Person 1” leaked detailed information about Company B to Miller through two other people.

That information, the government alleges, included “timing quantity, price and direction of its trading interest.” Using that information, Miller allegedly entered into offsetting transactions designed to profit from his advance knowledge.

Miller’s alleged source at Company B, Person 1, was a resident of The Woodlands, Texas, and served in various roles at the company, including as its president, according to the Department of Justice.  

Reached by telephone Monday, Miller declined to comment.

Several of the others involved in the scheme pled guilty based on criminal information filed by prosecutors, and legal papers in the cases are filed in a way that suggests one or more of the other individuals may be cooperating with the government – and against Miller.

Omerta, it seems, only goes so far.

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